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January 2007

Less than 20 years to go?

The HP 3000's CALENDAR intrinsic now ticks off the final two decades for the system, with a 2027 hard deadline out in the distance as a date MPE/iX won't know "what day is it?"

Two decades is a long time, really an eternity in the computer and IT industry, but on January 1 of 2027, the 3000's calendars will have used up all the bits allocated to date keeping. Experts in the community don't hold out much hope for an extension to this deadline. At least not for now.

In a future where cloned HP PA-RISC servers, driven by emulation, might help applications carry the IT torch even further, anything seems possible. One day an emulator is likely to surface for the hardware built for MPE/iX. Maybe in that era, a workaround for the CALENDAR roadblock will appear, engineered by a developer who's just now entering high school — or one who graduated listening to the Beatles.

But today, as this January wraps up, the current forecast is for closing up 3000 shops in 19 more January's. Unless the code changed to get the 3000 beyond Year 2000 can be altered again. But are there customers out there, completely unaware of HP's exit from the marketplace, still using 3000 models more than 19 years old? Count on it, but best of luck finding them.

Continue reading "Less than 20 years to go?" »

Encompass fishes for content, feeds stories

Encompass posted its call for presenters at this summer's HP Technology Forum this month, searching for expertise about HP 3000 management and strategy. While the Encompass call is across the board of 3000 operations, the user group's 2006 slate of MPE/iX talks revolved around migration experiences. There are far fewer resources spreading the homestead skills in the 3000 community, but Encompass still hopes to snare a few presenters teaching more than how to move off the platform.

The Encompass Web site offers a set of screens to describe any talk a 3000 expert can dream up. Giving a talk in Las Vegas in mid-June will earn the presenter a free pass to the rest of the event, including meals offered to attendees. The user group is holding its papers call open until Feb. 15.

More complete details for potential presenters are at the Encompass Web site. But that's also an Internet destination with a surprising collection of migration success stories and static reports on tools for moving off the platform, too. Finding it, however, requires a little inside knowledge.

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Seasoned hand takes an OpenMPE oar

Homesteading advocates on the OpenMPE board announced that Tracy Johnson steps into the open post this week on the board. Lund Performance powerhouse and well-connected fellow Bill Lancaster had to step down from the seat last year. The board has convinced Johnson to take up the rest of Lancaster's term, another two years' worth.

Johnson is well known as a source of deep 3000 experience and wry wit, both posted in public places such as the HP 3000 newsgroup/mailing list. He touts system experience from the pre PA-RISC days of 1984, using MPE IV, rather than iX. Measurement Specialties, a stalwart MANMAN shop, counts itself lucky to have him in its pool of able resources.

In August of 2005, part of HP was searching for an HP-UX version of the C compiler. The lab group in India had mislaid it. Johnson noted at the time, "If "Open-MPE" were out there, perhaps this [mailing list] could have helped. Too late now it seems."

Now the veteran is ready to be part of the future of the HP's end-game for the system.

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Why HP stays the Itanium course

HP and Intel have taken a lot of lumps for keeping up the hype on Itanium chips, the heart of Integrity servers that provide HP-UX a home for the future. Itanium's mission has shifted a lot since the heady days of the HP-Intel heralding. Once a candidate for market domination, the processor and its servers are now aimed at the enterprise — including HP 3000 replacements.

Processorplan But there's a strong attraction for Intel to continue with Itanium designs. The company has plenty planned, as can be seen by the chart at left. (Give it a click to pull up a version where the detail is legible.) But it will be sometime next year, at the soonest, before the chips attain compatibility with Xeon multiprocessor architecture — and so the x86 applications — according to the Intel schedule we saw at HP's Integrity road show. That will mean more applications to choose from, but only after a processor upgrade. Ah, the benefits of churn. Intel claims it's already got 80 percent of x86 marketplace, including a broad swath of HP Proliant systems running the Xeon chips.

Xeons are so popular that Apple uses them to power its Unix servers, the XServe models. Like just about everything from Intel these days, the Xeons have a dual core design. So what gives Itanium the secure place in the Intel futures, and by extension, a safe spot for future HP-UX releases? In a succinct phrase, the untapped billions that Intel hasn't snagged yet out of IT.

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Migration leaves the familiar behind

Vista HP 3000 managers will get to observe a migration of a much larger community beginning next week, when Microsoft releases its Vista operating system. The successor to Windows XP has taken almost as long to emerge as the first generations of Itanium-based systems; Microsoft began design in 2001 for Vista; the first public release of an Itanium chip-powered system came more than five years after the hype started for the HP/Intel project.

Releases like Itanium and Vista hope to capture new business for their makers by increasing the feature sets of predcessors. Vista's primary improvement is better security; Itanium's chief advantage is faster computing speed at lower acquisition cost. Eventually, the Tukwilla designs of Itanium, to be used in the Integrity HP servers, will conserve power better than PA-RISC processors or even Itanium predecessors.

New designs always carry change as their baggage, however. With Vista, according to reports from this month's beta testers, peripherals have to be abandoned or upgraded, as is also the case with desktops running CPUs too weak to handle Vista's muscular features.

"Users wanting to run Vista on old systems will have to invest in enhancing memory,’’ said Ravi Swaminathan, vice-president personal systems group, HP India

Continue reading "Migration leaves the familiar behind" »

Homesteaders: RAID your site for enhancement

By Gilles Schipper

Homesteading Editor

GSA Inc.

Attention all homesteaders!

In previous articles, I have mentioned various ways of enhancing the capabilities of your HP 3000 systems with very modest expenditures. They included the upgrading of your DDS2 or DDS3 tape drive to a DDS4 (DAT40) or even DDS5 (DAT72) to significantly reduce system backup times and improve reliability.

Also, I documented potential problems associated with seemingly innocuous DTCs, as well as methods for identifying such problems and corresponding solutions.

I have also delivered the details associated with the installation of a Secure Web Console (SWC). Costs for these very effective system enhancement solutions are either trivial or non-existent.

So now that you have all this spare cash burning a hole in your pocket, you should be in a position to spend a few of those dollars - and I do mean just a few - on a more elaborate project that further enhances the reliability and performance of your "obsolete" system.

Best of all, this project won’t require any fees for license upgrades.

Continue reading "Homesteaders: RAID your site for enhancement" »

Large Transaction Tip for HP 3000s

Is there a way to allow large transactions on the HP 3000?  I am getting an error message because the transactions I am trying to put into the TurboIMAGE database exceed the 4MB limit of the Transaction Manager.

Gilles Schipper of GSA replies:

You could try enabling the database for autodefer, as:

Log on as database creator, then

enable databaserootfilenamefor for autodefer

This will effectively detach the database from the transaction manager.

You will run the risk (a very small one, I would think) of database corruption in the event of a system failure.

You could mitigate the risk by ensuring you have a good backup of this database prior to the execution of this high transaction volume batch job.

To later reverse the transaction manager detachment if you wish, simply

disable databaserootfilename for autodefer

You bet, faster bits make a 9x9 difference

Customers might wonder what difference a faster network card could make on an older HP 3000. The Series 9x9s, called "K-Class" machines in the HP PA-RISC world, seem a prime candidate for such an investment.

To start, this faster card is cheaper than ever. HP used to charge a premium for moving from 10 megabits to 100 megabits. No more. Of course, you'll need to find it on the third party market. Not really a problem.

Tracy Johnson of the manufacturing site Measurement Specialties testified to the whether the upgrade earns its keep.

We added a 100mb card to our 959/KS400 several years ago and couldn’t do without it.

Given the promulgation of large bandwidth uses such as:

1) datasets are downloaded wholesale with ODBC; 
2) data-warehousing applications perform similarly;
3) client-server daemons (like XACTMAN) add a GUI, and 
4) FTP of entire backup files to other HP 3000s,

our old 10mb port just wouldn’t cut it. A useful retention of the 10mb port keeps our DTC alive, however.

Report: HP former chair offered plea to avoid felony

A pair of reports from the Associated Press and today's San Jose Mercury News say that HP's former chairman Patricia Dunn can get a way to ensure she won't be judged a felon — but only if she changes her plea to guilty.

The California criminal charges against Dunn, as well as former HP ethics chief Kevin Hunsaker and two others, are fraudulent wire communications, wrongful use of computer data, identity theft and conspiracy. All the defendants entered not guilty pleas in October, when they were indicted for their alleged participation in corporate spying on reporters, board members and family members of the press.

The deal on the table, from California's new Attorney General Jerry Brown, would make Dunn and Hunsaker plead guilty to one misdemeanor each, according to the published reports. The AP reported that Stephen Naratil, the lawyer for Bryan Wagner —the low-level investigator on HP's boardroom probe who's already turned state's evidence on the case — said the plea bargain is on the table.

Continue reading "Report: HP former chair offered plea to avoid felony" »

Migration performance, cast on Web's stone

Although it's been given for many years now, the most updated version of "Performance of Migrated HP 3000 Applications" is finally available as a downloadable Webcast. Kevin Cooper of HP's performance lab (and a key resource for 3000 performance measurement for many years) gave this talk at conferences from 2004 through 2006. Last fall Cooper did his show for Encompass.

The user group offers the Webcast as part of its membership package. It's a reasonable deal at $90, including some discounts at this summer's June HP Technology Forum in Las Vegas.

Members can replay the December Webcast on demand from the Encompass archives in the members-only section of the Web site:

But you need to become an Encompass member to watch Cooper's talk about what to expect and plan for while migrating. We covered his talk in the 3000 NewsWire blog during 2005, as well as what the user community had to offer, but the details of the slides and Cooper's comments, consumed from your office, seem to be worth the membership.

Continue reading "Migration performance, cast on Web's stone" »

Staying old to stay reliable

Contrary to what is preached by some 3000 experts, there's a school of thought that says older is better, if you want to keep your HP 3000 running as long as possible. Some customers will consider their migration deadline to be the last day their HP 3000 cannot boot up anymore, or when the 2027 CALENDAR intrinsic rears its head and makes a muddle of dates on MPE/iX.

If you know you're that kind of customer, ever careful with the budget but mindful of uptime, staying older — in generations of equipment, anyway — could make your survival simpler. A modern-day vendor of 3000 printers might subscribe to that theory, considering the recent offer from Printer Systems International.

Me, I turn to a five-year-old piece of advice, minted just months after HP said it would stop its 3000 operations. Wayne Boyer of Cal-Logic, holding forth on older printers compatible with many a 3000, said

Continuing to use somewhat older equipment makes servicability EASIER!  It’s hard for us in the used equipment business to have all the newest items in stock and even harder to justify cannibalizing something very new. A unit that is a few years old that is a common piece of equipment is going to be easy to support with used spare parts. Thus it is also going to be cheap to support.

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Bradmark product bolsters Sybase database

Bradmark Technologies, a company still offering HP 3000 IMAGE/SQL utility DBGENERAL, has announced Surveillance 3.0.6, the company's tracking system for Sybase databases. The new release extends support for Sybase’s Replication Server by including latency monitoring within Surveillance. There is also support for Sybase Mirror Activator, a feature that when used with EMC storage, allows for immediate switchover to a backup database.

Surveillance Bradmark’s real-time monitors will display historical information as well. The history of this database alternative to Oracle, SQL Server and IBM's DB2 is nearly as interesting. Ten years ago Sybase was the number one contender to Oracle. Five years ago the company had slipped to "the fourth place contender in a three party contest."

But the database company has avoided the fate of Informix, acquired by IBM, and even earned an IT Week spot in the “Top 100 Vendors of 2006” for its leadership in database management technology. Bradmark has invested a good share of its future in the Sybase community, even while maintaining a place in the HP 3000 toolset.

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HP-paid PI guilty in spying scandal

The first domino in the chain of alleged lawbreakers on HP's pretexting scandal pleaded guilty late last week. But 29-year-old Bryan Wagner is expected to deliver evidence to federal prosecutors that could lead to the convictions of other, higher-ranking investigators and HP officials. Former HP chairman Patricia Dunn and former HP ethics chief Kevin Hunsaker are also charged in the scandal.

Wagner, whose lawyer was quoted in an Associated Press story as saying his client "felt used" in the spying scandal, will be testifying for the prosecution in the upcoming trial, according to his lawyer Stephen Narati.

The five defendants in the case, including Dunn and Hunsaker, next appear in court on Jan. 17.

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Some apps are on Mac, if you look

The MacWorld Expo floor had a section dedicated to Enterprise and Small Business applications and tools. Inside the thicket of kiosks stood OpenMFG — which veterans of the 3000 community might remember as an alternative to the ASK/MANMAN solution.

At one point just a few years back OpenMFG was approached by Speedware, according the president, and asked if they wanted to be part of the Speedware acquisition. The CEO passed, he said, because the Speedware open source commitment didn't seem to meet his standards.

OpenMFG runs off of the Postgres database, found on Linux, Windows and the Mac's OS/X. Not surprisingly, those are the three platforms where about 60 companies and 100 installations run OpenMFG. It's about 40-40 percent on Windows and OS/X, and 20 percent Linux

Continue reading "Some apps are on Mac, if you look" »

An A-Class option for Unix migration?

This week I've been reporting and researching the Apple aspect of Unix enterprise computing, working from the annual MacWorld Expo and Conference in San Francisco. While all of the front page buzz has been about the iPhone — a product whose name Apple doesn't even own yet, according to Cisco — there is a redoubled effort here to bring Apple's enterprise Unix solution up to IT management standards.

More plainly put, the Fear of Cupertino (FOC), a phrase used by an Apple support rep here, can be overcome. "You have to come in humble to the IT department," he said, "if you want your servers to be included in the corporate plans."

If that sounds a lot like the situation you have faced in getting your HP 3000s integrated into a Windows-heavy or HP-UX slated environment, then you might sympathize. These managers here in the IT part of the conference believe in the superiority of their enterprise solution — just as much as the 3000 customer believes in MPE/iX.

They even could be seen lining up in front of microphones, a la Interex roundtables, to plead for better big-company support from Apple. Their vendor has a $4,200 a month support plan at the top of the heap of service options, a number equivalent to HP-UX support from HP.

As its entry into the enterprise Unix derby, Apple offers XServe systems, priced with unlimited user licenses starting at $2,999. Management of said servers is far more intutive, using Apple's interface — just in case, like many 3000 experts, you are learning Unix admin skills as part of your migration. HP-UX guru Bill Hassell said that GUIs as admin interfaces were for wimps. But there are seasoned HP 3000 pros out there who don't have time, during a migration, to wade into another set of command lines.

Continue reading "An A-Class option for Unix migration?" »

Hospice that delivers options

The end of life can be a harrowing time or a peaceful transition. Comfort plays a part in the type of ending for your experience, whether that experience is as vital as life itself, or relatively less crucial events like turning off your company's HP 3000.

One way to comfort is hospice, a concept some of us know as loving care with little hope of recovery. Hospice is behind the Idea Computer VM 9 offering, the one we described in yesterday's blog entry. VM 9 makes non-3000 PA-RISC processors looks and act like HP 3000s — but MPE/iX systems with extra horsepower, unfettered processors, as well as connectivity which HP didn't bring to the 3000 community. SCSI runs faster, for example, on a L-Class PA-RISC system.

One kind of customer might look at the VM 9 offering and see a company trying to keep HP from accomplishing its goals for the 3000 community: the safe and timely migrations of the 3000 customer to a platform with a brighter future in HP's vision. But like anything in this life, the virtual machine offering for the 3000 customer can be viewed from another perspective.

Ideal, it seems to me, is using its exclusive technology to modify PA-RISC stable storage, with the goal of helping customers get to the end of life for their 3000s' missions. The difference is comfort.

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Thanks to Unix, MPE lives in comfort

Unix systems from HP now play their part to extend the comfort of using MPE/iX. HP didn't modify the PA-RISC hardware models of HP 9000s much to create HP 3000s. Ideal Computers is using these near-identical versions of HP-built hardware to give 3000 customers a way to get the MPE/iX systems HP would never build.

Remember the L-Class PA-RISC servers? Probably not very well, unless your job description included managing HP 9000 systems. The L-Class was more powerful and flexible than the K-Class systems, on the way to the N-Class but more affordable. The ones the 3000 market knew as 9x9s. People in the 3000 community asked for an L-Class 3000, but HP never built one.

Except that the vendor never really closed the door on using an L-Class server as an MPE/iX system. At least not in the realm of technical possibility. The only thing that was missing was booting an L-Class into MPE/iX, a process HP never released. Working with the in-house toolbox of its own SSEDIT software, deploys a "VM 9"  program to customers to enable that boot-up. Yesterday at a facility in the East Bay Area, I watched an L-Class system become an HP 3000, booting through an ISL prompt to one where :HELLO made sense to the server.

Ideal  has created a class of PA-RISC server which the company's Steve Pirie calls a virtual machine. VM 9, he says with a smile, inviting us to consider what the Roman numeral for 9 might look like. Oh yeah. He didn't say it, but that's IX.

People always want to know, when they hear about this new option, "is it legal?" It has been as legal as it needs to be for some HP 3000 customers, which has included pretty good-sized companies. With HP in the thick of virtualization offerings of its own — you can slice and dice up Itanium processors in the Integrity machines to run concurrent instances of HP-UX, Linux, Windows and OpenVMS — the Ideal solution serves up another kind of virtual machine. The kind that takes a low-cost used system and boots it up as either an HP 9000, or an HP 3000, so customers can make a box like an L-Class take on either personality.

It works because SSEDIT, which powers the VM 9 software, is an invention of Ideal's (well, Advant's before it merged with Ideal). And none of this software is SS_CONFIG, HP's proprietary personality-changing program that was at the heart of all those lawsuits and criminal charges in 1999 and 2000.

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Developing PowerHouse migration tools

Even as Speedware announced its new alliance with old rival Cognos to help PowerHouse customers migrate, the Cognos development team was at work to create tools to help. Word recently surfaced on the PowerHouse mailing list about a new Cognos program, QKView, which transforms PowerHouse Quick screens to an interface ready for the Windows version of PowerHouse.

Quick Developer Ken Langendock has been working alongside Cognos developers to do a migration using QKView since March of last year.

"I have had the luxury of working with Bob Deskin and the developers at Cognos for the past 10 months as I have been migrating and developing with QKView," Langendock said.

He added that he hopes this project "helps in dismissing the current discussion that Cognos' [development tools division] is dying, abandoned or whatever.

Some Cognos customers believe that the lack of visibility for PowerHouse is a sign the product will fade from the vendor's future strategies. But Langendock notes that the new product (shown in a before and after at left; click for more detailed shots of the screens) permits an application to "1) Have function keys in Windows; 2) Use a mouse on the function keys on Windows; 3) Cut and Paste text from and to fields; 4) Embed your company logo on the top of the application; 5) Change the font/colors; 6) Size the window like any other windows app."

QkviewSome customers have responded to Langendock's revelation; he said he learned he could talk openly about the product, which he says is scheduled for an April or May release. They said the "invisibility" of PowerHouse says much more than any one product scheduled for the 8.41E release. The senior product manager for PowerHouse countered those comments with a list of supported databases, as well as Cognos' plans for expanding the functionality of PowerHouse.

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Early notice of the next 3000 show

Ghrug_banner Undaunted and determined, the Greater Houston Regional User Group (GHRUG) has plans for an HP 3000 show in 2007, despite grappling with a challenge to draw big numbers on short notice for its show in November of 2006.

We'll admit to an insider's view on this story — since after that conference I joined the GHRUG board of directors. (Behind that banner is Bill Hassell, Ann Howard, Charles Johnson, your correspondent, and the sparkplug of the 2006 event, Judy Reustle.) When there's only one arrowhead flying toward a target of 3000 customers, you want to be part of the wood behind that arrow.

While some of our readers puzzle over that metaphor (there's one conference for the 3000 this year; I wanted to help), I'll spill the beans a bit by noting the show for '07 will be earlier, based on provisional plans for the first-rate venue used last year. The University of Houston Clear Lake campus is easy to get to, has ample low-cost lodging nearby, and provides auditorium and breakout spaces as big and modern as any at a much larger, less 3000-specific show.

For now, mark your calendars for the weekend of Sept. 15. That's a full three months after HP's Technology Forum in Las Vegas this year. The Tech Forum offered a much smaller lineup of 3000 talks last fall, making it a very different training destination.

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The Benefits of Vendors of Tomorrow

Second of two parts

Once HP decided to drop the database connectivity tool ODBCLink SE from its new IMAGE/SQL licenses, the move offered a spark to create business for a replacement. HP 3000s still have at least several years to act in mission-critical roles. ODBCLink SE has only basic support available from HP, and no future at all as a bundled product for 3000s.

Now this change in HP's offerings gives MB Foster a chance to sell a full product to the entire HP 3000 customer base. At the least, all those sites where IMAGE/SQL connects to desktop clients, and within that group, the gang of customers which need a database link with a future. HP's giving up on ODBC Link SE.

Customers will need a replacement — at least those who have ODBC connections in a mission-critical role. The ODBCLink creators have a full-featured upgrade, MBF-UDALink, a product which ties in to other UDA offerings from the vendor. This is a level of data connectivity that HP was loath to offer to 3000 customers in a bundle. Not when third parties like MB Foster could do it so comprehensively.

Third parties built products robust enough to keep HP's development costs down in the 1990s,  just a fortunate byproduct for the 3000 division back when it was a real division. In the era of a virtual division, as the 3000 group now calls itself, such cost-cutting is even more crucial to the HP mothership.

So MB Foster's UDA family gets the spotlight for the coming year, because it comes from a vendor with an eye on the future of the 3000 customer as well as stewardship of present needs. Straddling the line into tomorrow, with a customer base working in the present, appears to be a genuine benefit in this kind of vendor. These Tommorow Vendors are seemingly modeled for the 3000's Transition Era.

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MB Foster takes over for HP ODBC labs

First of two parts

In a world where HP maintains its earnings growth through cost cutting, the HP 3000 group continues to recede its operations. On January 1 several HP 3000 subsystems and database tools fell from HP's support and sales lists. While Java/iX officially went into the "unsupported" category, the ODBCLink SE software — created by MB Foster in 1994 and bundled and maintained as part of the 3000's Fundamental Operating System since 1995 — won't be bundled with new license purchases of IMAGE/SQL or Allbase/SQL.

HP is stepping away from the 3000 in small increments, steps that give third parties a chance to take on business the vendor has always taken for itself. The ODBC link between Windows clients and the IMAGE database became a third party tool long ago, in the days when the 3000's IMAGE database  grew up enough to join the rest of the world's desktop-linked databases.

MB Foster took the contract and relationship  with the HP database labs to provide a  fundamental version of its ODBCLink product. The SE version always lacked the full feature list of ODBCLink, a product that has grown up so much MB Foster calls it MBF-UDALink today (the letters standing for Universal Data Access). But many 3000 sites got along with the bundled ODBCLink SE and took their support calls to HP. The vendor sent the questions it could not answer to MB Foster's lab, then reported back the answers. At times, MB Foster communicated directly with 3000 sites which had no MBF product except the SE version of ODBC link.

Why is this important to a marketplace which, quite frankly, won't see many new copies of IMAGE/SQL or Allbase/SQL shipped? MB Foster will try to ride the nudge the HP unbundling will offer, selling a complete version of UDALink to the ODBC SE sites. HP is providing basic phone support for the SE version of the software. But the writing is on the wall: It's time this third party take over a mission-critical part of the 3000's database toolbelt.

Continue reading "MB Foster takes over for HP ODBC labs" »

Top Stories of 2007

After taking a day of rest from reporting and commentary, we're returning to the scene today with a look forward rather than back at your HP 3000 community.

(So you'll know, January 1 will always be an R&R day for us at the 3000 NewsWire. Almost every other holiday is not observed worldwide. But the start of a new year  — at least by all standards other than Chinese, Jewish, or Buddhist — crosses nearly every culture and political geographies. Just recall the video of celebrations around the world. In short, nearly all of our readers treat January 1 as a special day, the beginning of something new.)

Today you may be full of ideas and resolutions for 2007, ranging from revised schedules for transition to redoubled promises to surf the 'Net less and practice personal communication more regularly, Whatever your resolutions, they'll get altered by more than your resolve. 2007 will bring changes to your community, change which few individuals control.

As an example, companies which serve the community will decide to reduce the resource devoted to the HP 3000. Others will seize on the opportunity of change — HP will shift its 3000 resources toward environments approved by the vendor — and the third parties will step up to attempt to capture the business.

One man's trash is another man's business model. This chestnut has been in action in your community for many years. HP stopped its MPE/3000 education business several years ago. opened its doors in 2006 to take over, led by seasoned trainers with access and time to renovate HP's teaching materials. (The training group has offered a new model recently, a register-until-it-fills plan to ensure that a class makes. HP's scheduling of MPE training had plenty of cancellations in its waning days.)

That leads me to the Top News Stories of our New Year. HP factors in many of them, since it's the biggest resource that is reducing its community involvement specific to the 3000. Please let us hear from you on how likely you believe these stories will appear.

Continue reading "Top Stories of 2007" »